by Ian McNulty
Talk about Ruth's Chris Steakhouse returning to the city of its birth has been circulating for months, and this week the company has officially confirmed its plans.
In an interview, Ruth's Chris CEO Craig Miller said the steakhouse chain intends to open a new restaurant in Harrah's Hotel in downtown New Orleans as early as May.
Ruth's Chris is now working on plans to convert the first-floor space in the hotel occupied by the restaurant Riche into what Miller describes as a "flagship" location for the company. The new restaurant will have outdoor seating along the Fulton Street pedestrian mall, will have banquet rooms and will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner daily and possibly serve Sunday brunch as well. Breakfast will primarily be a service to the hotel, Miller says, and is standard practice at 15 other Ruth's Chris restaurants located in hotel properties.
Miller says an agreement with Harrah's gives the steakhouse the option to locate to a larger space along the Fulton Street corridor in the future, although he says there are no immediate plans to do so.
The Harrah's Hotel location will put Ruth's Chris in the fulcrum of the downtown business and entertainment district. The area is also home to an array of other high-end steakhouse chains and independent local operators, including Morton's, Shula's, Dickie Brennan's Steakhouse, Besh Steakhouse, located inside the casino itself, and even the Argentine-style La Boca. But Miller says such proximity of rivals is business as usual for Ruth's Chris in many of its other markets.
"We're used to having competitors next to us, so that's nothing new to us," says Miller.
Ruths Chris reopened its Metairie location a few months after Katrina. The company's Mid-City location, built near the original restaurant operated by Ruth Fertel, the New Orleans homemaker turned steakhouse empire builder, was badly flooded by the levee failures and remains closed. Ruth's Chris still owns that North Broad Street property and Miller says the company plans to donate it to an as-yet-unnamed philanthropic group.
Ruth's Chris relocated its headquarters from Metairie to the Orlando, Fla. area shortly after Hurricane Katrina. Miller says the company has no plans to move its corporate base back to the New Orleans area.
From its first New Orleans restaurant, which Fertel bought in 1965, Ruth's Chris has grown into an international, publicly-traded company. In February alone, the company opened its second restaurant in Utah and its first in Aruba, bringing the total number of Ruth's Chris locations to 119.
- Ian McNulty